20 of the Best Golf Courses in the Greater Bay Area

The big-ticket landscape of the greater Bay Area, from bustling cosmopolitan cities to quiet coastal communities, has been gifted with an exceptionally diverse collection of communal golf courses layered with a rich frosting of history, from the architects who conceived them to some of the greatest wizards of the links, including Johnny Miller and Ken Venturi, who honed their skills on the sidehill, uphill, and downhill lies around the doglegged fairways. Whether a local or visitor, theres a golf challenge to suit any size wallet.

The following is a curated list of 20 greater Bay Area public golf courses in alphabetical order.

Feature Photo: Half Moon Bay Golf Links by Robert Kaufman
Photo: Robert Kaufman

Baylands Golf Links

PALO ALTO

Opened in 1956, Palo Alto Municipal GC adjacent the Palo Alto Airport was re-designed by renowned architect Forrest Richardson and reopened as Baylands GL in 2018. With a fresh look, including the removal of 400 non-native trees, the 6,680-yard walkable layout features five par 3s, five par 5s and 55 acres of native Baylands vegetation and wetlands areas through which the San Fransisquito Creek, a historic waterway, runs acting as a major flood conveyance stream. baylandsgolflinks.com

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Photo: Robert Kaufman

Chardonnay Golf Club & Vineyards Course

NAPA VALLEY

Searching for an authentic wine country golf experience? Chardonnay GC (1986) serves up the quintessential tasting. Void of any private residences, golfers will need only avoid hitting their golf ball into the countless rows of Chardonnay, Merlot & Pinot Noir grapevines bordering the fairways. There are no wine sampling stations available on the 18-hole, 6,773-yard course but the layout does feature a unique blend of six par fives, six par fours, and six par threes. chardonnaygolfclub.com

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Photo: Courtesy of Cinnabar Hills Golf Club

Cinnabar Hills Golf Club

SAN JOSE

Peacefully tucked high in the hills only a short drive from the fast-paced Silicon Valley, Cinnabar Hills GC, designed by John Harbottle, includes three distinct nines: Lake, Canyon, and Mountain Courses. All 27 holes blend championship-caliber golf with spectacular views and have been crafted to maintain the natural slope of the area and protect the resident wildlife, including foxes and turkeys. To further enhance the landscape, hundreds of oaks were incorporated into the layout. cinnabarhills.com

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Photo: Robert Kaufman

CordeValle

SAN MARTIN

Situated on 260 acres of gently rolling terrain 30 minutes south of San Jose, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. took advantage of the natural elevation changes formed by peaks and canyons and enhanced by meandering creeks, plus sycamore and California oak trees. The 7,360-yard CordeValle GC offers an impressive variety of hole challenges for amateur and professional golfers (hosted PGA Tour Frys.com, 2010-13, and 2016 U.S. Women’s Open) and luxurious accommodations for a 5-star escape. cordevalle.com

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Photo: Robert Kaufman

Corica Park

ALAMEDA

Golf down under on the island city of Alameda at the Bay Area’s only Australian sand-belt style course. After a dramatic restoration (2018) to the South Course by famed architect Rees Jones, the minimalist 6,874-yard layout plays fast and firm with the option to strike the ball to the hole by air or ground. The property, five minutes from Oakland International Airport, is also home to the North Course (under renovation; 9 holes due to open June 2021) and one of America’s top nine-hole, par-3 courses. coricapark.com

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Photo: Courtesy of Eagle Vines Golf Club

Eagle Vines Golf Club

NAPA VALLEY

Beautifully blended into the foothills of Napa Valley, an hour away from Sacramento, San Francisco and Santa Rosa, Eagle Vines GC came into existence somewhat ready-made with ten of the original Shakespeare Course holes from the adjacent Chardonnay GC. The 18-hole, 7,297-yard course designed in part by World Golf Hall of Famer, Johnny Miller, weaves around majestic oak trees, creeks, and working vineyards to epitomize how golf and nature can co-exist in magnificent harmony. eaglevinesgolfclub.com

Photo: Robert Kaufman

Half Moon Bay Golf Links

HALF MOON BAY

Along the Pacific Coast 30 minutes from San Francisco or Silicon Valley, two 18-hole courses create bookends to The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. The Arnold Palmer/Francis Duane-designed 7,001-yard Old Course (1973) has a parkland feel with a premium on strategy over distance and a postcard 18th hole finish along the coastal bluff. The 6,854-yard links-style Ocean Course (1997) is an Arthur Hills’ crafted layout with wide open fairways and Big Blue views from nearly every hole. A sunset finish on either is complimented by Scottish bagpipes. halfmoonbaygolf.com

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Photo: Courtesy of Hiddenbrooke Golf Club

Hiddenbrooke Golf Club

VALLEJO

A former host to the LPGA’s Samsung World Championships of Golf (2000-2002), the acclaimed an Arnold Palmer Signature golf course is nestled in a scenic secluded valley just north of San Francisco. At 6,619 yards with dramatic elevation changes, large challenging greens and water on 14 of the 18 holes, the award-winning (4.5-star rating from Golf Digest) Hiddenbrooke GC provides five sets of tees to accommodate beginning to advanced golfers. hiddenbrookegolf.com

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Photo: Courtesy of Indian Valley Golf Club

Indian Valley Golf Club

NOVATO

Indian Valley GC (1958), Marin County’s most remote golf challenge, is enhanced by game-distracting scenery of protected farmland covering the rolling hills surrounding Stafford Lake. Steeped in its blue-collar roots with a family atmosphere, the 6,374-yard hidden gem yields a variety of 18 holes playing around woodlands and wetlands but, perhaps, the most unique feature of any golf course is the elevator for transporting energetic walkers up a steep grade from hole #13 to #14. indianvalleygolfclub.com

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Photo: Courtesy of Metropolitan Golf Links

Metropolitan Golf Links

OAKLAND

In the tradition of great links courses, Johnny Miller and Fred Bliss designed 18 holes right next to Oakland International Airport with a spacious and open feel giving the thinking golfer a variety of options depending upon the wind and appetite for risk/reward. With a backdrop of the Oakland Hills, Bay, downtown Oakland and San Francisco, the compact 6,959-yard layout includes straight holes, doglegs and even a couple double doglegs throughout the subtle mounding and wetland areas. playmetro.com

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Photo: Robert Kaufman

Northwood Golf Club

MONTE RIO

Adjacent to the Russian River in Sonoma County, Northwood GC (1928) was designed by famed architect Alister MacKenzie (Meadow Club, Cypress Point, Augusta National) in collaboration with Robert Hunter, as a creation for the exclusive Bohemian Club. Now open to the public, the friendly staff is super welcoming at this picturesque 2,893-yard nine-hole course with narrow fairways weaving around strands of towering Redwoods. northwoodgolf.com

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Photo: Robert Kaufman

Pasatiempo Golf Course

SANTA CRUZ

Less than an hour’s drive north from the Monterey Peninsula, Pasatiempo GC (1929) was designed by Alister MacKenzie (Augusta National, Cypress Point). It was considered the renowned Scottish architect’s favorite 18-hole creation and where his American home still borders the sixth fairway. Consistently ranked among America’s top public golf courses, this historic 6,495-yard championship venue is a must-play on the Bay Area’s golf bucket list. pasatiempo.com

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Photo: Robert Kaufman

Peacock Gap Golf Club

SAN RAFAEL

Peacock Gap GC (1960) was designed by William F. Bell and later renovated (early 2000’s) by Forrest Richardson. By blending the classic Bell bunker style with innovative green contours and new holes, including risk-reward par-4s, reachable par-5s and a par-3 that plays across a pond to a two-level green, the very walkable 6,261-yard layout offers golfers a solid variety of shot-making. Also on site is Marin County’s all-grass driving range, practice greens and chipping area. peacockgapgolfclub.com

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Photo: Courtesy of Poppy Ridge Golf Club

Poppy Ridge Golf Club

LIVERMORE

In the heart of Livermore Wine Country, the 27-hole Rees Jones design is reminiscent of the Scottish heathland courses. Three nines as distinct as the grape varietals they are named after – Merlot, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel – sweep through 3,000 acres of savannah-covered hills to provide challenges for golfers of any skill level. Each hole is shaped by extensive bunkering to reinforce the feel of a true links-style course and each nine closes with a lakeside green in front of the hacienda-style clubhouse. poppyridgegolf.com

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Photo: Robert Kaufman

Presidio Golf Course

SAN FRANCISCO

Overlooking the gateway to San Francisco Bay, Presidio GC (1895) is the second oldest course west of the Mississippi. Before transitioning to a public course in 1995, play was restricted to military officers and the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and Dwight Eisenhower. The deceivingly long 6,481-yard hilly layout within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area meanders around Eucalyptus and Monterey Pine trees and is a mission worth undertaking. presidiogolf.com

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Photo: Robert Kaufman

Silverado Resort & Spa

NAPA

Napa Valley’s renown wine country and 36 golf holes at the iconic Silverado Resort & Spa exemplify the consummate pairing. With two championship courses redesigned by World Golf Hall of Fame member and co-owner, Johnny Miller. Both offer an abundance of water and large greens, however, the 7,166-yard North Course, which hosts the annual PGA Tour Safeway Open, is longer and more straightforward than the hillier 6,612-yard South Course with less room for error. Don’t miss the famous “burger dog” available at the snack shack. silveradoresort.com

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Photo: Robert Kaufman

The Course at Wente Vineyards

LIVERMORE

Greg “The Shark” carved an 18-hole masterpiece through acres of century-old grapevines and rolling hills in the scenic Livermore Valley Wine Country. The Course at Wente Vineyards (1998), 50 minutes east of San Francisco, provides eye-candy panoramas to compliment a 7,181-yard layout that once challenged (2006-08) the PGA Tour’s Nationwide Tour (now Korn Ferry Tour). The cart ride from hole No. 9 to No. 10 treats golfers to a taste San Francisco’s world-famous Lombard St. wentevineyards.com/course

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Photo: Robert Kaufman

The Links at Bodega Harbour

BODEGA BAY

Hugging Sonoma County’s coastline with spectacular Pacific Ocean views, The Links at Bodega Harbour (back nine, 1978/front nine, 1987) guarantees a happier birdie experience than Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds that was filmed nearby. With rolling hills and undulating greens dominating this Scottish-style links designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the front nine is demanding with strategically-placed pot bunkers, while the back nine presents wider fairways and a dramatic three-hole, par 4-3-4, finish. bodegaharbourgolf.com

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Photo: Robert Kaufman

TPC Harding Park

SAN FRANCISCO

Surrounded by Monterey Cypress trees and Lake Merced, TPC Harding Park (1925) is where San Francisco-born golf legends Johnny Miller, Ken Venturi, and George Archer honed their game. Following a $16 million restoration project in 2002-03, the 6,845-yard gem has hosted multiple pro tournaments, including the Presidents Cup (2005) and the 2020 PGA Championship. The Fleming 9 course (2,165 yards) was added in 1961 in the interior of the 18-hole layout. tpc.com/hardingpark

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Photo: Robert Kaufman

Windsor Golf Club

WINDSOR

As a one-time host to several PGA Ben Hogan Tour and Nike Tour (now Korn Ferry Tour) tournaments, Windsor GC (1989) in Sonoma Wine Country is a challenging 6,599-yard layout uncluttered by neighboring homes that carves through a gently rolling landscape with a multitude of visual treats, including the club’s signature Silo, native oaks, and strategically-placed ponds. windsorgolf.com

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Robert Kaufman

Robert Kaufman

Robert Kaufman is an internationally published golf & travel writer and award-winning photographer with an observant eye and insightful journalistic style that has guided him around the world, including all 50 states...and playing golf in 24 countries! During his entrepreneurial career, Robert founded Northern California’s first monthly golf publication and was instrumental in directing Visit California’s golf marketing initiative to raise global awareness for the state as a top-tier golf destination. His work can be viewed at Picture PARfect.

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